Some places dangerous driving practices come and go, while some places dangerous driving practices become icons. Mandatory Milwaukee is all about the latter. Join us as we revisit beloved and well-worn local staples dangerous driving practices with fresh eyes, and explore how they might figure in the city’s future. This week: the “Milwaukee Slide.”
The recent headlines are unavoidable:
Milwaukee is in the midst of a reckless driving pandemic. And part of that reckless driving pandemic is a reckless driving maneuver so common that it has its own regional nickname: the “Milwaukee Slide.” [Edit: ALSO KNOWN AS BASELINING.]
Yes, the “Milwaukee Slide”—a.k.a. passing on the right—sucks. It’s dumb. It’s dangerous. It’s dumb and dangerous. Let’s see it in action:
It’s dumb and dangerous, but is it illegal? If there’s a bike lane involved, then yep, it’s illegal. According to Wisconsin State Statute 346.94(12):
Driving on bicycle lane or bicycle way
No operator of a motor vehicle may drive upon a bicycle lane or bicycle way except to enter a driveway, to merge into a bicycle lane before turning at an intersection, or to enter or leave a parking space located adjacent to the bicycle lane or bicycle way. Persons operating a motor vehicle upon a bicycle lane or bicycle way shall yield the right-of-way to all bicycles, electric scooters, and electric personal assistive mobility devices within the bicycle lane or bicycle way.
Notice the “before turning at an intersection” part. If a driver intends to turn right, moving into a bike lane is legal. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Wisconsin Driver’s Book offers some safety tips for doing so:
You can move into a bus/bicycle lane to prepare for a turn. First make sure it is safe. Check for someone riding a bicycle in the lane. A person who rides a bicycle is called a cyclist. Turn your head and look. If a cyclist is beside or ahead of you in that lane, slow down, signal your lane change and move into the lane behind the cyclist. Safely make your turn when the lane is clear.
But again, the move seen in the video above is illegal. The City of Milwaukee’s Department of Public Works has this handy reminder:
But what about passing on the right in general, when there is no bike lane? Well, that’s legal, though it’s kind of frowned upon. Here’s the letter of the law:
346.08 When overtaking and passing on the right permitted.
The operator of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting the movement in safety and only if the operator can do so while remaining on either the roadway or a paved shoulder, and then only under the following conditions:
(1) When the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left turn or U−turn; or
(2) Upon a street or highway with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width to enable 2 or more lines of vehicles lawfully to proceed, at the same time, in the direction in which the passing vehicle is proceeding; or
(3) Upon a one-way street or divided highway with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width to enable 2 or more lines of vehicles lawfully to proceed in the same direction at the same time.
The Wisconsin Driver’s Book has this to say:
Although it is sometimes legal to pass on the right, it is usually not a good idea. The other driver might not expect you to pass on the right, might turn right as you pass and cause a crash. If you must pass, pass on the left if possible.
You can pass on the right when the car ahead will make a left turn. You must not drive off the pavement, though.
Thus, the following maneuver is legal [Edit: STILL ILLEGAL]:
So what’s being done to stop illegal “Milwaukee Slides”? Concrete barriers and “wave delineators” are slowly appearing along city bike lanes, making the lanes more visible and discouraging illegal passing. (Concrete barriers on the North Avenue and Locust Street bridges were installed after the initial plastic poles and orange barrels proved—sigh—ineffective.) Raised bike lanes are being explored, too.
Of course, we can all make Milwaukee driving less dangerous by…driving safely. Slow the fuck down. Get off your goddamn phone. Let pedestrians cross the street. It’s easy. It’s simple. It’s part of the pact we all make when we choose to live together in a busy city. No more reckless driving headlines, please.
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